By Innocent Anaba
Three death-roW inmates, Kingsley Akhabue, Ismail Fatoki and Fabian Mathew, convicted and sentenced to death on March 29, 2011 a the Lagos High Court, have regained their freedom, after being discharged and acquitted by the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos.
The case for which they were convicted and sentenced to death was that they conspired to rob, and did rob the complainant on March 22, 2008 while armed.
It was alleged that the said robbery took place at the Egan area of Lagos. At the end of the trial in 2011, the trial court found them guilty and sentenced them to death.
Following the appeal against their death sentence, filed by Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, a panel of justices presided over by Justice Joseph Ikyegh of the Court of Appeal, Lagos, unanimously allowed the appeal of the three appellants and set aside their conviction and death sentence in a landmark judgment.
In the judgment, the appellate court resolved all the issues raised on the appeal in favour of Kingsley Akhabue, Ismaila Fatoki and Fabian Mathew, the appellants in the appeal.
The appellate court found that “The evidence of the respondent at the court below did not link the appellants with the commission of the offences charged.”
According to their lawyer, Chino Obiagwu; “This is another opportunity to reiterate our calls for an indepth re-evaluation and urgent overhauling of our Criminal Justice System, especially as it relates to the use of capital punishment. We cannot continue to be sentencing innocent persons to death, only for the Appeal Court to upturn the judgment after a decade or more when the appellant must have served unlawful sentence and deprivation of his personal liberty in the prison.”
He called on the Nigeria government to reconsider its stand on the use of capital punishment by abolishing the use of death penalty and replacing same with life imprisonment.